Helping Baby Sleep

Dear Sara,

I am a new Mom. My baby girl is two weeks old now. I decided to bottle feed her because I plan on going back to work. She is sleeping two to four hours at a time in the daytime but she seems to be up every two hours at night. I am planning on going back to work in a couple of weeks and my Mom will take care of her during the day. I can see that this will be very difficult if I can’t get any sleep. How can I get her to sleep at night?

Dear Jan,

It takes a while for a baby to adjust to some sort of schedule. It seems like this phase lasts a long time when you’re not getting any sleep. It’s OK to let her fuss for a while during the night as long as you know her diaper is dry and she was fed recently. She has been brought into a new world where she may not feel comfortable yet. I know that you are tired but don’t be tempted to prop her bottle. She needs to feel you close and hear your heart beat to feel safe. She will grow up very quickly. It shouldn’t be too much longer until she will be able to sleep at least four or five hours at night.

Good luck.

Son Hates Step-Mom

Dear Sara,

I was married for sixteen years and have been divorced for two years. I recently remarried and love my new wife. The problem is that my fifteen year old son Kevin hates her which makes his visits with me barely tolerable. Kevin either won’t talk to my new wife or makes rude comments. She has done nothing to deserve this. How should I handle this?

Dear Rob,

Apparently Kevin was more upset by your divorce than you realize and for some reason blames your new wife for his pain. You can’t make him like her but you can insist that he be polite to her.

Your family may need to sit down with a family therapist and allow Kevin to tell you exactly what he feels and why. He may be able to tell you on his own how he feels but a professional would be better able to help him deal with it. You may also need to include your ex wife at times. For now don’t try to push for a relationship between your new wife and Kevin. He needs time and patience.

Finding The Right Pet

Dear Sara,

I have five year old twins who are pleading for a dog. Their friend has one and they think that it is wonderful. I have a job and between that and taking care of them and the house I have very little spare time. They insist they will take care of the dog but I know better. What kind of dog would be easiest to take care of?

Dear Trudi,

You are right. At the age your kids are, the responsibility will be yours. What you might want to do is insist that they help you until they are old enough to do the chores on their own.

Puppies are really cute but they are a lot of work. Until they are trained you will be cleaning up after them. Why don’t you try the local animal shelter. There are so many older dogs who need homes and they are vet checked, have their immunizations, judged healthy and have been neutered. You might want to look for a dog that is laid back and won’t be jumping on the kids all of the time. The twins might be able to walk a medium sized dog on a leash if he is not too active. I hope there will be one special one that will be perfect for your family.

Caring for a dog can teach a child responsibility. It will need to be fed, watered, walked and taken outside from time to time but a pet’s love and devotion will be remembered long after it is gone. He will be part of your family.

Too Tough vs. Tough Love

Dear Sara,

I have a twelve year old son. I feel that kids today are totally spoiled and receive rewards verbally and otherwise for below average performances. I am trying to raise my son differently. He only receives praise for doing a really exceptional job. He played soccer for a while and I let him know when I didn’t feel like he was trying hard enough. He is in wrestling now and I let him know when he does his best. My friend told me that she thinks I am being too hard on him. I think I am being realistic. Who is right here?

Dear Diane,

Probably you both are right to a certain extent. Your son may be growing up to think he has to be perfect at all times because this is the standard that you have set for him or he could just say to himself “no matter what I do it’s just not good enough.” On the other side, with a lot of undeserved praise a child could think that whatever they do is good enough and they don’t have to try very hard to get what they want. They could end up with an unrealistic view of themselves and be very hard to live with.

Maybe a middle of the road, more diplomatic approach would be better. Children are very sensitive to their parents criticisms. When your son tries hard and fails, it might be good to let him know that you noticed his efforts. If he doesn’t try very hard maybe there could be a reason for that, like lack of interest. Try going for a moderate approach. Praise for effort as well as performance. He needs your love and approval, not just your criticism.

Grocery Store Troubles

Dear Sara,

I have two girls ages three and five. They are really acting out when I take them to the grocery store and I don’t always have someone to leave them with. They are begging for everything they see and pitching a fit when they don’t get it. I would like to take them to the store in peace. Any suggestions?
-Rose Ann

Dear Rose Ann,

If you have given in to their temper tantrums and bought them what they wanted, you have rewarded their bad behavior. Kids learn fast. Your first step might be to have a talk with them before grocery time and let them know what you expect from them. Let them know that if they behave, they can have one prize for a reward. If they have a temper tantrum there will be no reward and a 15 minute time out when you get home. If you waver from this even one time, they will continue to harass you because this has worked for them in the past.

Financially Irresponsible Teen

Dear Sara,

My only child, a girl, is graduating from high school this year and has plans to go to college. She is very immature and has gotten herself in trouble several times. I let her use my credit card and she used it to the limit and came to me wondering why I refused to let her use it any more. She hasn’t any sense when it comes to finances. I’ve tried to explain things but she doesn’t seem to understand. She seems to have this carefree attitude that nothing bad will happen. How can I let her go off to college when I know she can’t take care of herself?

Dear Christine,

You have been your daughter’s protector for all of her life. Maybe she hasn’t learned yet that her actions may have consequences. I know that you are worried about her getting hurt but how will she learn to take care of herself if you are always there to make sure she doesn’t fail. She has to grow up sometime so allow her this opportunity. She may have some problems but give her the opportunity to figure things out on her own. You are used to her clinging to you so it may feel bad for you to let go. She needs her own wings for a while.

Good luck.

Christmas Tree Dangers

Dear Sara,

I am getting ready to put up a Christmas tree. I have a two year old who is very active and gets into everything. I want a tree but I don’t know how to keep him from destroying it or hurting himself. How can I have a tree and keep him safe?

Dear Gloria,

It’s really fun to see a child’s eyes light up at the sight of a Christmas tree but they want to touch everything and feel what they see. This is normal behavior for a two year old who is learning about the world. People have been trying to protect their toddlers from getting hurt by the tree for a long time. You could try putting the tree in a playpen so your two year old can’t get to it or having a small tree up on a table but it seems a shame to keep your child away from all of that fun.

If you want a traditional tree, you would want to make sure that it is secure so he can’t pull it over on himself. The bottom ornaments could be plastic so he could help you decorate. He will probably want to take them on and off a few times. Just be careful that none of the ornaments have small parts he could choke on.

Keep things simple so he won’t have too many things to get into. There are going to be lots of things going on like visiting relatives and parties where he could get over stimulated. His behavior might get out of hand. Try to keep him on a regular schedule and limit his sugar and junk food. Enjoy him. Two year olds grow up really fast.

Can’t Afford Christmas

Dear Sara,

I have three kids ages five, seven and nine. They see all of the things advertised for Christmas and hear about what their friends are asking for for Christmas and think that they should have these things as well. We don’t have a lot of money and can’t afford all of these expensive things. Christmas has gotten way too commercial. What can I do to have a nice family Christmas without spending a ton of money?

Dear Jessica,

Your kids may have some idea about your financial situation but have a family talk about what you can afford. Why don’t you try making memories instead of giving expensive gifts. Kids like to help decorate the tree. Maybe they could make some ornaments for the tree and put their name and the year on them. It’s fun to look back later and say “Oh we made these when we were little.

It’s always fun for kids to help make cookies and decorate them. If you are really brave they could invite a friend and have a cookie decorating party.

The real reason for Christmas is the birth of Jesus. How we have gotten so far away from that is a mystery. Help your kids celebrate that. You may not be able to rein in the commercialism but you can try.

Good luck.

Single Mom Needs To Socialize

Dear Sara,

I’m a single Mom with two kids ages four and six. I work and leave them in daycare during the day but never seem to get a break to socialize. My ex might (or might not) take them for one Sunday a month. He is good about paying his child support but can’t be bothered with our kids. I need to have a break from the responsibilities once and a while but babysitters are too expensive and my parents live in another state. I need to get out once in a while. How can I manage to do this?

Dear Ginger,

It is difficult to raise your kids without a support system. One thing you might consider is moving closer to your family. This could mean that your ex has less access to his children but it appears that he isn’t willing or interested in being a hands on father. Your kids need someone other than their Mom in their life who care about and love them.

Another option is to find someone in the same situation who would be willing to trade baby sitting services with you. It could be difficult caring for someone else’s children (for a time period determined by you both) but that might give you a night out or a weekend to do something fun. Ask around to see if anyone might be interested. You will want to be careful and check things out. If you don’t smoke, do they? Do you think their house is safe? Are they responsible with their own kids?

One other thing you could check out is the churches in your area. Sometimes they will have a “mother’s day out” program where you can leave your kids for a few hours. I hope you find something really helpful soon.

Terrible Twos

Dear Sara,

My son started walking at age 18 months. He’s two now and he hasn’t stopped since except to sleep. He goes from one thing to another pulling things out of drawers and cabinets and putting anything that fits into his mouth. If I need to go to the bathroom I put him in his crib and he screams and cries the entire time. I have put away anything breakable but he still finds things to get into. I am worried that he will eventually get hurt. How can I keep him safe?

Dear Liane,

Your son sounds like a very bright boy who wants to know about everything. I hope you have safety proofed your house with things like covers for electric outlets and latches for your kitchen cabinets.

He probably needs at least one room where you can put gates on the doors that is completely child proof. If he has a box full of toys there where he can pull things out and play with a short time, this might keep him busy for a while. If you change things in the box from time to time it may keep him interested. If he wants to be in the kitchen with you then keep things in cabinets or drawers at his level stocked with things that he can’t get hurt on.

If he’s that busy you might want to use a harness when you take him out to the park or for a walk. Kids that age can be really impulsive. They are so cute at that age but they can be really tiring.

Good luck.